'Finding Eanswythe' project in Folkestone hailed a success

Contributed by editor on Jul 05, 2018 - 04:15 PM

By Ray Duff

Last week the 'Finding Eanswythe' project conducted a through-going survey of the old churchyard gravestones surrounding St Mary & St Eanswythe Church on The Bayle.

The Finding Eanswythe project is run by Canterbury Christchurch University in conjunction with Canterbury Archaeology Trust (CAT) Folkestone Research and Archaeology Group (FRAG) and this time ran an archaeological excavation on part of the old Vicarage site at Priory Gardens last week in conjunction with the Soldiers On! project which helps distressed veteran service people.


Top: FRAG members enjoy pot-washing the finds in the shade. Middle: Some of the various finds from the dig.Below: Possible 'shroud' pins. Photos: Ray Duff


During the survey and excavations, some of those involved also recorded brief video-diaries for the project with local MP Damian Collins also visiting and recording one. Many other visitors; including parishioners and people who live on The Bayle were also shown around or became involved; and local artist Matt Rowe recorded for his film project.


The churchyard, which was formally closed, way back in the late 1850s has seen many changes to the footpaths, grounds, and gravestones over the years. There are also few records of exactly where the graves are, nor how many people are actually buried in the churchyard.


Top: Dr Ellie Williams (CCCU) with one of the churchyard plan boards. Below: Dr Lesley Hardy, project director, completes a headstone survey. Photos: Ray Duff


Many of the gravestones have either been moved; some back along the church wall; and others have become very eroded by the weather. Despite this there are still some such which remain reasonable legible and thus efforts were made to transcribe as much of the remaining detail as possible and to describe the stone and any other markings on them. eg: Some have skull designs, others cherubs and swirl designs.

There are also some fairly locally 'famous' persons interred there including such as mid 19thC artist John (Jock) Wilson. One of his best paintings 'A Wreck off Folkestone' is at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.


Just behind the parish church is Priory Gardens, the site of what was a huge Vicarage building which lasted until the mid 1960s. Only the large basement now remains with the ground level having flats and a large house on the area.

Top: A typical 18/19thC clay pipe bowl with dog and grape décor. Below: Possible piece of medieval pottery. Photos: Ray Duff

There is a small garden space beside the house and it is here that the excavation took place. Almost immediately remains of part of the former and ancient churchyard wall was revealed along with signs of what might be an old gate post.

Either side of the wall the areas able to be dug provided many fascinating finds from mainly the 18th and 19thC these being Kentish peg tile, slate, Victorian pottery, a piece of stained glass, clay pipes, oyster and other shells. Other finds included likely shroud pins; and there were pieces of what may be earlier medieval pottery also.

L & R. The trench is excavated as visitors are told about the project. Photo: Ray Duff

Digging to any depth though was not possible as on the western side of the wall unearthed was part of the old graveyard and thus burials may have been disturbed further down. The other side is known to have had a sewer pipe placed under part of it.

The excavation and surveys were considered a success though and the finds all add to the whole project; which though centring on the 6thC AD Saint; is also conducting research into the whole history of the area and the various references and artefacts which may still be extant. Indeed many new and intriguing references to the St Eanswythe watercourse; or Town Dyke as it became known; and which originally arised close by Cherry Garden Hill, Cheriton, have already been revealed.

Upcoming event


Further excavations, events and researching is being planned; and the next event for the project is:

Saturday 21 JULY from 10AM - 4PM

Anglo-Saxon Re-Enactments at Folkestone Amphitheatre, Coastal Park.
Anglo-Saxons vs Vikings 'battles', craft stalls, food stalls, information on 9th century lifestyles etc; with re-enactment society: 'Ost Centingas of Regia Anglorum'.

Further Info from Finding Eanswythe project:

See also:

Canterbury Archaeology Trust:

Folkestone Research & Archaeology Group.

Top of page photo: Dr Andrew Richardson (C.A.T.) directs the opening of the trench. Photo: Eamonn Rooney


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